SOLOMON ISLANDS: Salesians Help Young Men Learn Trades, Find Stable Employment
(MissionNewswire) The Solomon Islands are one of the poorest countries in the Pacific region with almost 40 percent of the population living in poverty, according to UNICEF. The majority of the country’s children live in remote areas where access to education is limited. Close to 25 percent of youth never attend primary school with 30 percent of those attending never completing. Limited access to education and an adult literacy rate of less than 35 percent perpetuates the cycle of poverty from generation to generation.
In addition, limited access to health care, social services and reliable transportation, particularly in rural areas where close to 84 percent of the population reside, on top of a weak electricity and telecommunications infrastructure, compounds already challenging economic conditions.
The Salesian-run Don Bosco Technical Institute Henderson in the Solomon Islands’ capital city, Honiara, is bringing new opportunities to poor youth in the area. The institute has been providing education and skills training in the electrical, automotive, carpentry and machine fitting maintenance trades as well as life skills training and employment assistance, for the past 10 years.
While the majority of students are male, the institute is working to increase enrollment of female students by encouraging them to take courses in more typically male-dominated trades as well as providing opportunities for those who previously left school due to marriage or pregnancy. Currently, most young women begin at the institute with life skills training followed by courses in teaching and nursing.
The Laura Vicuna Hostel, operated by Salesian Sisters in Honiara, is home to 25 young girls from distant villages and surrounding islands who have come to the city to study at the Don Bosco Technical Institute and other local schools. In addition to their school studies, many of the young women here learn new skills such as music, sewing, basket weaving and gardening. A recent donation of sewing machines by the Rotary Club of North Balwyn in Australia, is helping students practice their new skills with the hope of future employment.
“Most of the students at the Don Bosco Technical Institute are from poor families and many have dropped out of traditional schools,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “There, they are getting a second chance by learning skills that will enable them to find employment to support themselves and their families.”
This past year, the institute introduced a new course in the basics of hospitality and tourism that provides training for young men and women seeking employment in hotel management and the hospitality industry.
UNICEF – Solomon Islands
Salesians – Australia Pacific
Salesian Missions Australia Province Newsletter – Year in Review 2013